Are Gold/Platinum Records a Thing of the Past?

What was the last Gold or Platinum record in the US? I was looking at a copy of Entertainment Weekly recently and noticed a blurb that said one of the top-selling albums had sold only something like 250,000 copies. My dad was in the record industry and I remember his office full of gold and platinum plaques. He told me once that Gold certification would be 500,000 copies sold, Platinum would be a mil. Has any album of the past 5-10 years done so? Do they count digital downloads alongside in-store sales?

There are still plenty of Gold and Platinum albums. And yes, digital sales of the full album count in the total. As for what was the last Gold or Platinum album, I couldn’t tell you. But here’s the top ten best-selling albums from 2008 (in the US):

1 Taylor Swift - Taylor Swift
2 As I Am - Alicia Keys
3 Fearless - Taylor Swift
4 The Best Damn Thing - Avril Lavigne
5 Noel - Josh Groban
6 Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends - Coldplay
7 E=MC2 - Mariah Carey
8 Funhouse - Pink
9 Good Girl Gone Bad - Rihanna
10 Hard Candy - Madonna

Madonna’s Hard Candy has been certified Gold and all of the others are at least Platinum records (with most going double or triple Platinum).

When people say albums don’t sell as well as they used to, what they mean is that the biggest albums used to sell 10-15 million. That doesn’t happen anymore, but complaining about selling only 4 million copies of something is insane.

Absolutely. Lady Gaga’s debut album was certified platinum, for example. Any of the top albums from a given year will break a million sold.

Well to me they ended years and years ago.

For example, a gold single was originally a million units and a platinum single was 2 million units.

Then in the 80s singles stopped selling, so they simply “lowered the standards” in order to get gold and platinum records. Then a gold single became 500,000 units and a platinum single became a million units.

FYI you have to apply for status, it isn’t given. This is why some artists never have a gold or platinum record even though they could. If you don’t ask for certification you won’t get it. You also have to pay for it.

There is also controversy because it’s units sold but returns aren’t subtracted. Though this usually isn’t an issue, in few cases the returns have been enough to (or should’ve been enough) to revoke the certification. In other words if an album sells 500,000 gets certified than has a 10,000 unit return it now falls below the criteria and should get the gold status revoked but it doesn’t get revoked.
Gold albums (as opposed to the above mentioned singles) were always 500,000 units while platinum albums were always 1 million units

Albums and singles sell less partly because there is so much product that less is needed. Remember current artists now compete not only with each other but with artists from the 40s to present.

Yeah in the past Elvis and the Beatles sold music after they broke up, but it wasn’t as significant as it is now.

In my day if you had ten dollars to spend you generally bought music by current artists. There wasn’t even a large selection of older music. Why? Because music stores had to stock it and space is premium

Now with the Internet you can hold CDs in warehouses or use digital downloads and space ain’t an issue.

So now the new generation of music lovers who has ten dollars is just as apt to spend that money on Elvis as he is on Justin Timberlake.

So the money’s the same and there are more artists to spend it on.

Add to that you don’t even have to download from the Internet to enjoy music. If I liked a song, as a kid I would buy the single or album and play it over and over and over. Then I got sick of it and it sat in the record holder unplayed. Now I could go online and hear the song (without ever having to download it) over and over and over till I’m sick of it. Thus no song was bought.

The Wikipedia has a good article on how gold/platinum etc disc come about

Heh. I suppose sooner or later they’re going to start giving out Styrofoam instead of Gold or Platinum?

*but complaining about selling only 4 million copies of something is insane. *

Agreed, though it’s worth asking why sales have dropped off so dramatically. I’m a downloader but I’m going to acknowledge that downloading probably has had something to do with it. One of the big downsides to downloading, though, seems to be that if people wont actually BUY records anymore then the companies wont care enough to seek out good artists and established artists wont care about making good content anymore. Although…home taping has been around for a while (similar, in spirit anyway, to the download) and I don’t seem to recall any real drop-off in music sales like now. I haven’t been pay attention the last 30 years, though.

Because today’s music sucks balls?

Just a guess.

Because there’s no unified definition of what makes “popular” music anymore.

In the 60s and 70s, you had radio and TV shows like Ed Sullivan pushing all of the same acts. Sure, there was some local variety, but by and large, popular music was very similar everywhere (especially Beatlemania).

In the 80s and 90s, MTV told you what was cool and artists rode it’s ubiquity to bigger sales than ever before.

Now, the Internet has fractured music fandom into a thousand different directions. Instead of one band selling 15 million albums and a bunch of others selling a million or two, you’ve got 100 different acts all selling 500,000 records. And then you’ve got another pile of groups that sell well under that but tour relentlessly and are still considered successful.

And on top of all that, you’ve got illegal file sharing that has dropped the amount of money record labels make and you have iTunes/Amazon single song sales that drop the total number of albums sold. And also, like Markxxx mentioned, it’s possible to YouTube/Pandora/MySpace a song and hear it over and over again without ever actually buying it.

All of that equals vastly smaller sales numbers.

That’s a pretty bold statement. There’s alot of great music out there, it just hasn’t been discovered. And if the suits can’t make a buck of it then their position will be “why should it be discovered?”